DOVER, Del. (NSUSpartans.com) – Norfolk State overcame an early 10-0 deficit and outscored Delaware State 33-7 the rest of the way, securing its first three-game winning streak in eight years with a 33-17 victory over the Hornets on Saturday at Alumni Stadium.
Juwan Carter threw two more touchdown passes and safety Bobby Price recorded NSU’s third defensive touchdown in as many weeks with an 84-yard interception return in the third quarter.
The win improves NSU to 5-6 overall, 4-3 in the MEAC. The five wins are the Spartans’ most since the 2011 season (since vacated), and the three-game winning streak is also NSU’s longest since that year. With Florida A&M ineligible for the MEAC title, NSU enters the final week of the season with a chance to still tie for first place in the conference.
The Spartans also established a new Division I record for points in a season Saturday, again eclipsing that 2011 team. NSU has scored 330 points this season.
Things did not start well for NSU, however. The Spartans were stopped on 4th-and-1 near midfield on their first drive of the game, and on the first play after the possession change, DSU’s Thomas Bertrand-Hudon scored on a 48-yard TD run.
After forcing NSU to punt, the Hornets (2-9, 1-7) drove 59 yards in 12 plays to go ahead by 10 after a 31-yard field goal by Jose Romo-Martinez with 2:36 left in the quarter.
But the Spartans went on to score the next 23 points. After driving into a stiff gusty wind in the opening quarter, NSU had the wind at its back in the second and took advantage. Carter ended a 13-play, 78-yard drive with an 11-yard TD pass to Da’Kendall James with 11:42 left in the first half. The PAT was blocked, keeping DSU in the lead at 10-6.
But that lead did not last long. NSU freshman cornerback Devyn Coles intercepted DSU’s Tylik Bethea on the next possession and a personal foul moved the ball to the DSU 32. Four plays later, Kevin Johnson scored his 11 touchdown of the season on a 14-yard run with 7:34 remaining in the quarter.
Josh Nardone added a 33-yard field goal just 18 seconds before the half to give the Spartans a 16-10 lead at the intermission.
Price extended the lead when he intercepted a pass by Bethea and returned it 84 yards for a touchdown just 2:54 into the third quarter.
DSU drew within 23-17 on Bethea’s 28-yard TD run with 4:16 left in the third quarter, but the Spartans controlled the fourth period. NSU outscored DSU 10-0 thanks to two long scoring drives. Carter finished a 10-play, 66-yard scoring march with a 24-yard TD pass to Justin Smith, two pair’s sixth hookup this season, with 14:02 left in the game.
Nardone provided the final points with a 20-yard field goal with 4:38 remaining. The punctuated a 13-play drive which took 7:40 off the clock and included a 23-yard run by Carter on 4th-and-16.
Carter completed 18-of-31 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday. He now has 23 TD passes this year and has not thrown an interception in his last five games. Carter also led NSU’s ground game with 44 rushing yards.
Bertrand-Hudon ran 25 times for 137 yards for the Hornets. But NSU forced Bethea into a tough day through the air, as he completed just 5-of-15 passes for 54 yards and two interceptions. Bethea also lost a fumble, which was recovered by NSU end Chris Myers in the fourth quarter.
Linebacker Cephas Harden led the NSU defense with 10 tackles. Safety Nhyre’ Quinerly added eight.
The Spartans host South Carolina State at 1 p.m. next Saturday at Dick Price Stadium. It is Senior Day as well as 1st Responders and Military Appreciation Day.
With a win and a North Carolina A&T loss next week to N.C. Central, NSU can force a three-way tie for the top spot in the standings with the Bulldogs and Aggies, though a multiple team tie and accompanying Celebration Bowl berth would favor the Aggies in that scenario.